It’s nothing new that cheating has always meant different things to different people, the definition of what constitutes cheating in a relationship differs greatly according to the individual.
To one person an emotional affair might be just as much of a deal breaker as a physical one, however, these days in the age of social media the lines of what constitutes cheating have become even more blurred.
While physical cheating can be pretty easily defined, a 2015 study looked at the different forms of cheating and found that just about anything from lying to flirting to sexting – to then the more obvious intercourse – can all be considered cheating; depending on a person’s perspective.
Well now there’s a new buzzword on the dating scene called micro-cheating that seeks to take account for this “grey area”, and you could be doing it without even realising it.
Still in contact with your ex? Comment with a wink face on a work colleagues photos on Instagram? Haven’t gotten around to shutting down your Tinder profile? To you this might be innocent but would your partner feel the same way?
Micro-cheating is “a set of behaviours that flirts with the line between faithfulness and unfaithfulness,” couples therapist Lindsey Hoskins tells TIME. “The line is in different places for different people in different relationships.”
A new study by married dating website Ashley Maddison found that technology has completely changed the way people cheat on their partners these days, and has further complicated the idea of traditional monogamy.
The study of 3,342 of the site’s members looked at what they considered constitutes cheating, outside of the physical component.
The top three responses included forming a deep emotional bond with someone else (55%), sending naked pictures to someone other than them (46%) and texting erotic messages to someone other than them (44%).
“Modern monogamy is becoming more and more vague so it really boils down to communication between couples and negotiating the terms of a marriage in an open way,” says Isabella Mise, director of communication at Ashley Madison. “When couples aren’t on the same page, or one partner simply isn’t getting what they need, other options become desirable, even when that’s as simple as finding someone to talk to.”
Despite the ease with which we can find ourselves in a grey area thanks so social media, Dr. Tammy Nelson, sex and relationship therapist and author of The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity says cheating is a “conscious choice”.
So while at their core, micro-cheating behaviours might not be a concern, acknowledging when they cross a line is important.
And so what can you do to avoid micro-cheating?
Communication is key, you and your partner need to be open and honest and define what “crossing a line” means to you, but further to that, Dr Nelson says you need to be open about what you need from your partner to feel content, so the need to seek something outside of the relationship is not there.
“An alternative conversation to have is one that outlines what it is that each partner needs from the other to feel happy and satisfied in the relationship, and how to talk about it when they don’t feel that,” adds Dr Nelson.